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WHO Should Regulate Alcohol Consumption With Legally Binding Convention, Global Health Expert Says

The “WHO should regulate alcohol at the global level, enforcing such regulations as a minimum drinking age, zero-tolerance drunken driving, and bans on unlimited drink specials,” Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in global health politics at the University of Oxford, argues in a commentary published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, Scientific American reports. “[A]lcohol kills more than 2.5 million people annually, more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis,” and it is a leading health concern for middle-income populations, “greater than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco,” according to the news service (Wanjek, 2/15).

Closing The ‘Cancer Divide’ Between Developing And Developed Countries

Noting “there is a huge ‘cancer divide’ between rich and poor,” with more than half of new cancer cases and almost two-thirds of all cancer deaths occurring in developing countries, this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “Together It Is Possible,” “calls on all individuals, organizations and governments to do their part to reduce premature deaths from cancers by 25 percent by 2025,” Felicia Knaul, secretariat for the Global Task Force on Expanded Access to Cancer Care and Control in Developing Countries, and Jonathan Quick, president of Management Sciences for Health, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “But there have been four myths that have held back cancer care and control in developing countries,” they write.

Sugar Poses Significant Health Risks, Should Be Regulated Like Alcohol, U.S. Researchers Say

“Sugar poses enough health risks that it should be considered a controlled substance just like alcohol and tobacco, contend a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),” in an opinion piece called “The Toxic Truth About Sugar,” published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, TIME’s “Healthland” blog reports (Rochman, 2/2). “While acknowledging that food, unlike alcohol and tobacco, is required for survival, [authors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis] say taxes, zoning ordinances and even age limits for purchasing certain sugar-laden products are all appropriate remedies for what they see as a not-so-sweet problem,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health” blog writes (Hobson, 2/2).

Keeping Global Health Relevant As Part Of Sustainable Development Agenda

“In 2012 there will be a major strategic shift in global health, away from development and towards sustainability,” a Lancet editorial states. “Since 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), driven by a macroeconomic diagnosis of global poverty, have focused on investment in a small number of diseases as the most effective approach to decrease poverty, … [b]ut this approach is now delivering diminishing returns,” because of emerging challenges such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), climate change, and financial security, as well as a heightened focus on integration and accountability, the editorial says.

Health Experts Call For U.N. Special Session On Mental Illness, Illicit Drug Use

“Mental illness and drug abuse can wreak havoc in global societies and economies, and the U.N. General Assembly should devote a special session to the matter, global health experts said” in a PLoS Medicine article published on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reports (1/17). “Mental, neurological, and substance use disorders (MNS) … are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and profoundly impact the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities,” a PLoS press release states, adding, “Yet the majority of people affected by MNS disorders globally do not have access to evidence-based interventions and many experience discrimination and abuses of their human rights” (1/17).

WHO’s Chan Urges New Approach To Preventing, Fighting NCDs At Executive Board Meeting

“Countries need to change their current mindset to successfully tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the head of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said [Monday], adding that governments will need to explore new approaches to prevent and treat these diseases, which have quickly become one of the most pressing issues in public health,” the U.N. News Centre reports (1/16). “In an opening speech to the annual WHO Executive Board meeting, Director-General Margaret Chan … urged the 34-member board to tackle the root causes of non-communicable diseases,” VOA News writes (Schlein, 1/16).

Fallujah Doctors Say Chemicals From U.S. Weapons To Blame For High Levels Of Birth Defects

“While the U.S. military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating U.S. attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as ‘catastrophic’ levels of birth defects and abnormalities,” Al Jazeera reports. Samira Alani, a pediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, “told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009,” the news service notes, adding, “Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.”

Illegal Drug Use May Be Affecting Health, Death Rates Worldwide, Lancet Report Says

“About 200 million people around the world use illegal drugs every year, and that may be taking a toll on health and death rates in various countries, says a report released Thursday in the Lancet,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. According to the blog, “[t]he study, part of a series the journal is doing on addiction, offers a plethora of information about [the] use of opioids, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana worldwide” (Stein, 1/5).

Scientific American Examines Relationship Between Climate Change, Health

Scientific American examines the interface between climate change and human health, writing, “WHO research suggests that current warming of global average temperatures of just under one degree Celsius is responsible for an additional 150,000 deaths per year, largely due to agricultural failures and diarrheal disease in developing countries. … As a result, WHO — and a consortium of other public health organizations — declared climate change to be among the most pressing emerging health issues in the world at the recent climate negotiations … in South Africa.”

The Guardian Examines Global Disability Issues

The Guardian on Thursday published several articles about people living with disabilities. One article reports on how “[a]ccess to HIV information, testing and treatment for people with disabilities was raised for the first time as a central theme at the International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), held last week in Addis Abba, Ethiopia” (Powell, 12/15). A second article interviews 14 people with disabilities about the challenges they face in their respective countries (Cummins, 12/15). A third article presents an interactive graphic of the key data on global disability from the first WHO World Report on Disability, published in June (Cummins/Villani, 12/15). And a fourth article examines the stigma faced by those with disabilities around the world (Ford, 12/15).